Hope for Venezuela?

Monday, October 01, 2012

Editor's Note: I have discovered that there is a small backlog of comments on earlier posts that are awaiting moderation. I should have received email notification of each comment, but did not. I will moderate these as soon as I can. My apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused. Update: After a bout of comment spam, which I reported via a "spam" button, my GMail brilliantly concluded that all email from Blogger's comment system was spam. This is absurd since Google owns both Blogger and GMail: Google's own anti-comment spam tools are making it harder for me to use email to handle comments! In any event, I think I've moderated all the comments and am now aware of the issue...


Leaving aside cheating by the Chavez regime, it looks like there might be some dim electoral hope for Venezuelans: The Telegraph has run a story on an opposition figure who sounds like he could give Hugo Chavez a run for his money in Venezuela's presidential elections next Sunday:
The Sunday Telegraph spent a day on the campaign trail with [Henrique] Capriles as he dashed across two states, drawing crowds from the coffee plantations of the Andean foothills to the steamy lowlands around Lake Maracaibo.

Until recently, he would walk routes thronged by supporters for several miles each day. But as their numbers have surged, the candidate has been forced to swap feet for wheels and now takes centre stage in a colourful caravan of cars, buses, lorries and motorcycles that wend their way between appearances.
He certainly sounds like he has lots of support. He also has lots of experience in the "rough and tumble" politics of his country. So Capriles sounds like he's viable, anyway. But would he be substantially different than Chavez? On the one hand, he opposes Chavez's cosy relationships with the world's most despicable dictators, and he calls Chavez's land "reform" program a "disaster". On the other hand, Capriles hardly strikes me as a principled opponent of Chavez.

Capriles admits that he'd keep at least one of Chavez's programs in place, and he isn't exactly speaking of abolishing the disastrous land "reforms", either:
Mr Capriles pledged that his government would review as "my responsibility under the law" each such case, including the seizure of estates from the Vestey Group, the family-owned ranching and sugar cane company headed by Lord Vestey, one of Britain's richest men. Decisions on whether to return property would be determined by several factors, including whether compensation was paid and who was now living on the land.
The one "factor" that really matters here -- but is missing -- is, "Who is the rightful owner of the land?" Capriles also admits that he would, in some form, keep at least one other program started by Chavez. It's as if his campaign slogan, "There is a way" is an unfinished sentence, ending with, "... to make a state-run economy work."

Nevertheless, as big a disaster as Chavez has been, Capriles could offer time and breathing room for freedom-loving Venezuelans to make further inroads into changing the culture of their country -- or leaving. Assuming that is the case, I hope he wins.

-- CAV


Today: Added update to Editor's Note.


Dismuke said...

One of my record collector friends corresponds by email with an elderly gentleman in Venezuela. They do not discuss politics but recently the gentleman mentioned in one of his emails that Chavez has threatened to unleash a civil war if he loses the election. And Chavez has the means to do so. Some while back there was a very large quantity of guns and other weapons that originally came from Russia that became unaccounted for. Turned out that Chavez distributed them to militias loyal to him in various parts of the country - mostly in desperately poor neighborhoods. The militia were trained to make blood flow in the streets in the event that there was any sort of coup against Chavez. And the military is terrified of him as well. Chavez has infiltrated the military with Cuban trained people loyal to Chavez to such a degree degree that officers and soldiers are afraid to speak their minds to each other for fear of the consequences.

As for cultural change in a place like Venezuela - I wonder how one would even go about that. It is a country with a huge population of a desperately poor, ill educated, permanent underclass that effectively holds a de facto veto on the country's politics. And this, of course, has been Chavez's base of support and why it has been so difficult to dislodge him despite the damage he has done to the country and its economy.

Would a Pinochet style dictatorship be somehow a lesser evil than a Chavez style dictatorship? Not a pleasant thing to think about. But one is tempted to wonder if the country and its people might have better odds at recovering down the road from a Pinochet verses a Chavez. Either way, the price is very harsh and heavy.

And I was recently thinking that there is a certain very big difference between the countries of Eastern Europe recovering from Communism verses countries in places such as Latin America. In Eastern Europe, communism was something IMPOSED on them by outsiders after the Nazi and Soviet occupation during World War II. Even at the very end, most people had parents or grandparents who could remember the pre war decades when things were better and those countries did not have the sort of desperate, permanent underclass going back centuries that the Latin American countries have.

All very sad to think about - especially given that we, ourselves, have a president who is, in terms of ideology though not demeanor or personality, pretty much on the same page as Chavez.

Gus Van Horn said...

On top of the new information about Chavez's militias and his threats, you bring up quite a few things that went through my mind as I read the article, namely that the choice for Venezuela is quite similar to ours. In addition, you say, "As for cultural change in a place like Venezuela - I wonder how one would even go about that."

My policy is to never say never on such a question, but I am quite pessimistic about that happening in Venezuela.